Conceptual Sizing and Feasibility Study for a Magnetic Plane Concept


The Hyperloop concept is proposed as a faster, cheaper alternative to high-speed rail and traditional short-haul aircraft. It consists of a passenger pod traveling through a tube under light vacuum while being propelled and levitated by a combination of permanent and electro-magnets. The concept addresses NASA’s research thrusts for growth in demand, sustainability, and technology convergence for high-speed transport. Hyperloop is a rad- ical departure from other advanced aviation concepts, however it remains an aeronautics concept that tackles the same strategic goals of low-carbon propulsion and ultra-efficient vehicles. System feasibility was investigated by building a multidisciplinary vehicle sizing model that takes into account aerodynamic, thermodynamic, structures, electromagnetic, weight, and mission analyses. The sizing process emphasized the strong coupling between the two largest systems: the tube and the passenger pod. The model was then exercised to examine Hyperloop from a technical and cost perspective. The structural sizing analysis of the travel tube demonstrates potential for significant capital cost reductions by considering an underwater route. Examination of varying passenger capacity indicates that the system can be operated with a wide range of passenger loads without significant change in operating expenses. Lastly, a high-level sizing study simulated variations in tube area, pressure, pod speed, and passenger capacity showing that there is a tube pressure that minimizes operating energy usage. The value of this optimal tube pressure is highly sensitive to numerous design details. These combined estimates of energy consumption, passenger throughput, and mission analyses all support Hyperloop as a faster and cheaper alternative to short-haul flights. The tools and expertise used to quantify these results also demonstrate how traditional aerospace design methods can be leveraged to handle the complex and coupled design process. Much of the technology development required for the Hyperloop is shared with next-generation aircraft. Furthermore, the substantial public interest and active commer- cial development make it an ideal candidate as an aircraft technology driver and test bed.

Proceedings of the 55th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting